Businesses based in and around Grenfell Tower are facing “a bleak future”, according to a local non-profit organisation.
The Portobello Business Centre (PBC) says there is no long-term support for the businesses directly affected by the disaster.
Its comments come days after Kensington and Chelsea Council announced it would provide extra support to businesses located in the Lancaster West Estate, which was home to Grenfell Tower.
PBC chief executive Allen Pluck: “Existing businesses are in survival mode, but if we can help this community now, we believe we can achieve sustainable and economic well-being in the longer term.
"There are a number of business who are really struggling.”
PBC say it is offering support to 45 of the 85 businesses directly affected by the June 14 fire and has been engaged in supporting the self-employed people and businesses housed within the tower and the immediate area.
According to PBC many of the businesses are now in severe difficulty or financial distress, with some on the brink of closure.
This is due to a number of cumulative factors, including:
- Loss of trade (30-70% downturn largely due to reduced footfall) – approximately 1.000 people have been removed from the local area (this includes 650 surviving residents from Grenfell Tower and residents from nearby estates as well as 350 students from the local academy). In addition, a reduction in transitory visitors and visiting business trade deepens the loss of footfall and customers.
- Staff difficulties – business owners and staff who are working in such close proximity to the Tower are suffering from trauma and stress. Recruitment for new staff is proving virtually impossible.
- A community still experiencing trauma – with the ongoing police investigation into the disaster, the after effects of the tragedy remain, affecting not just the residents, but also the wider community.
- Lack of premises – businesses and the self-employed which operated out of Grenfell have been unable to work or without workspace since the fire.
- Road closures – while the Tower remains standing, the area is subjected to unannounced road closure as cranes and similar equipment are moved onto the site. These continue to cause disruption to business deliveries.
The local authority announced on February 13 that around 40 companies are to receive compensation of up to 50% on their rent and service charges for the next two months.
It follows an eight-month rent holiday to commercial tenants at the Baseline Studios on the Lancaster West estate, worth close to £200,000.
Business rate relief worth an additional £25,000 has also been provided.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has also provided these businesses with a share of a £300k package of support across the four London tragedies which occurred in 2017.
But the PBC says there is no further agreed support on the horizon, and is calling for the government, the Greater London Authority and local council to provide longer term infrastructure support to help the affected businesses.
Mr Pluck continued: “We’ve been able to reposition some of our own external funding but this only provides limited support for the beleaguered North Kensington business community. So much more needs to be done.”
One local business, Samurai Sound, welcomed the help from Kensington and Chelsea Council.
Owner William Anderson: "Not only has this helped us get through the difficult times, it has also helped us build the business up and become more established in the local community, as we've been able to offer free workshops for local people to come together and do something creative."
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